PHA encourages uptake of shingles vaccine


The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging 70 and 78 year olds to get the free shingles vaccine when invited.

The vaccine helps protect against this common and painful disease and its complications. Each year in Northern Ireland around 1,000 people in their seventies will get shingles.

People who were aged 70 or 78 years of age on the 1 September 2019 are eligible to receive the vaccine. Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “This year just under 30,000 70 and 78 years olds will be eligible for this vaccine. Those who were eligible for the vaccine in previous years, but didn’t receive it, can still get the vaccine this year if they are under 80 years of age.”

Latest figures show that uptake of the vaccine for 2018/19 was 47% for people who turned 70 years of age during the year and 48% for those turning 78 years.

About a quarter of adults will get shingles at some point in their lives. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you recover from chickenpox, some of the virus remains inactive in your body and nervous system. It can then reactivate in later life when your immune system is weakened.

Dr Johnston continued: “Shingles causes a very painful rash and is more likely to affect people as they get older. Also the older people are, the worse it can be, with some people left with pain that can last for years after the rash has healed.

“It is estimated that the vaccination programme will prevent many of the hundreds of cases seen every year in Northern Ireland in people over 70 and reduce the severity of the symptoms for those who do develop the condition.”

The vaccine is given as a single injection in the upper arm and you only need to have it once. Side effects are usually quite mild and don’t last very long. The most common side effects include headache and/or pain and swelling at the site of the injection.

Those who have lowered immunity must not receive the shingles vaccine, including people who are on chemotherapy or who have leukaemia or lymphoma. If you are receiving any treatment, especially if it is prescribed to you at a hospital, check with your GP to make sure you can have the vaccine.

“I would encourage anyone who receives an invitation for shingles vaccine from their GP to take up the offer if they can and help to protect yourself from a painful illness” concluded Dr Johnston.

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